NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 24, 2006

Russia's president Vladimir Putin recently announced income subsidies of up to $9,200 for women following the birth of a second child, beginning in 2010. The money could be used for a mortgage down-payment, a child's education or adding to a pension account. The minimum monthly wage in Moscow is currently $150, so $9,200 would be a significant amount for many Russian families. The government has also pledged more financing for nursery schools and foster family care (which can reduce abortions of unwanted children).

Despite the subsidies, it will be hard for Russia to halt the decline, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • Russian women have fertility rates below the population "replacement rate" of 2.1 children per woman and have begun to recognize the advantages of having smaller families.
  • Working-age men have a high mortality rate (reflected in their life expectancy of just 55 years).
  • The health-care system has failed to foster a voluntary activism in which the public avoids undisciplined indulgence -- and thus the noninfectious diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disorders, that unhealthy lifestyles breed.
  • More than a quarter of Russians live and work in the central federal districts, which comprise less than 4 percent of the country's territory. By contrast, 21 percent of the population is settled in Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East, which accounts for 75 percent of the country's land mass and most of its natural resources.

Russia's best hope appears to be immigration; but Russians appear to have abnormally strong negative attitudes against immigration -- not only by ethnic migrants from the Caucasus, Central Asia and China, but even by ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics. According to observers, the Russian public does not support an active immigration policy to counter the population decline, says the Journal.

Source: Padma Desai, "Running Out of Russians," Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2006

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